In the second article of this series, I once again review five times in John Cena’s record breaking career that he has wrestled the match of the night. These are not just the best matches of his career but the best matches on that particular show, period.
As before, this article is not about the times that John Cena was solely responsible for having a great match, instead recognising both WWE Superstars in the contest; it takes two to tango after all. Speaking of two, we have set this number as the maximum competitors in a match so you won’t be seeing any Triple Threats, Elimination Chambers or Royal Rumbles in the list. These matches are in no particular order and are all available to watch on the WWE Network.
vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XXVIII
The match touted as ‘Once in a Lifetime’ did not disappoint. On a card that also included a Hell in a Cell match between Undertaker and Triple H as well as the culmination of the ‘Best in the World’ rivalry between CM Punk and Chris Jericho, this match came out on top as the match of the night. We were treated, pre match, to musical entertainment as well as the obligitory staredown between the combatants. The combatants in the match trade victories in the test of strength before going back and forth with traditional wrestling holds.
The Rock begins to build momentum in the early portion of the match, taking Cena off guard with quick arm drags and knockdowns. Cena regains control of the match by targetting the ribs of the Brahma Bull, punishing him with kicks, suplexes and a visit to the announce table. Despite this, The Rock is able to persevere and fight back, setting up the opportunity for the People’s Elbow. The attempt is unsuccessful, however, as Cena drops Rock down with a toe hold before delivering his signature Spinout Powerbomb and 5 Knuckle Shuffle. Cena’s attempt to capitalise with an Attitude Adjustment is unsuccessful and the two continue to brawl back and forth. The second time around, John is able to execute the AA but The Rock is able to kickout at the count of two, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
After a period of rest, John Cena returns the favour, kicking out of an emphatic Rockbottom, delivered by The Rock. After another near fall following a Cena leg drop from the top rope, The Rock locks in a series of Sharpshooters that Cena is able to escape by reaching the ropes. The Rock is, likewise, able to reach the ropes to force Cena to abandon the STF, despite almost forcing The Great One to pass out. Further back and forth culminates in a successful Spinebuster and People’s Elbow from The Rock but again this only leads to near-fall. As exhaustion begins to set in, The Rock takes to the top rope, attempting a crossbody that is masterfully countered into another Attitude Adjustment. This again, though, only results in a two count from Cena. The match culminates in victory for The Rock as John Cena prepares to execute a People’s Elbow of his own, mocking the Most Electrifying Man in Entertainment. During the course of the move, The Rock pops up and delivers a second Rockbottom, securing the victory. The aftermath of this match also gave us the iconic image of John Cena looking dejected as he sits at the bottom of the ramp, wondering where it all went wrong.
vs. CM Punk – Money In The Bank 2011
This match is one of my favourite of all time. Fresh off the now infamous “pipe bomb” promo, CM Punk challenges for the WWE Championship with the threat that if he wins, he will exit WWE with the championship. The match starts methodically with the crowd firmly behind the hometown hero, CM Punk. The self-proclaimed voice of the voiceless is able to pick up early momentum, grounding Cena with a hip-toss and a dropkick before locking in a side headlock on the mat. As Cena escapes, the pair engage in a series of counters with Cena and Punk each unsuccessfully bringing the other to their shoulders for the AA and the GTS, respectively.
The two put on a wrestling clinic using the whole ring to good effect, switching between mat based holds, off the rope whips and strikes, and impactful manoeuvres in the middle of the ring. The two wrestle back and forth, each unable to gain a prolonged advantage. CM Punk is able to hurt Cena with a crossbody from the top rope, landing heavily on John Cena’s leg, but Cena is able to return the favour, suplexing Punk from the inside of the ring to the unforgiving mat outside of the ring. As the action returns to the ring, the two go deep into their repertoire to execute moves not used by either man prior.
Several times again, each competitor attempts to hit their finishing move on the other but each time their endeavour is ill-fated, returning to the back and forth. This move and counter-move switches to submission wrestling, with CM Punk reversing the STF into the Anaconda Vice before Cena is finally able to counter into the AA, but only getting a 2 count for his exertion. With this nearfall, Cena begins to build impetus and begins to punish Punk before hammering him into the mat with a second AA. Despite this, he is still unable to secure victory and takes CM Punk to the top rope, assumingly to deliver the AA from a greater height. Sensing danger, CM Punk is able to escape, Hurricanrana the Champ back into the ring and deliver a GTS. The move is not fully executed, though, and Punk’s strike to the ribs sends Cena flying between the second and third rope.
Realising the severity of the situation, Mr. McMahon and RAW GM John Laurinaitis make their way to ringside. Distracted, Punk is locked in the STF and McMahon deploys his stooge to go and ring the bell, despite CM Punk not having submitted to the move. Honour-bound, John Cena cuts off Laurinaitis and knocks him down. Cena circles the ring to tell the boss he’ll win his own way but gets back into the ring to be met with the GTS. Punk quickly covers Cena and wins his first WWE Championship.
vs. Shawn Michaels – WWE RAW, April 23, 2007
In a rematch from their encounter at WrestleMania 23, John Cena and Shawn Michaels squared off once more, this time from London, England. As it did at WrestleMania, this match kicked off with a series of chain holds and counters. The two beak apart and re-establish their technical contest with collar and elbow tie-ups on a number of occasions. After squaring up and exchanging verbality, the match takes to the mat and the exchange of submission and counter-submission resumes.
The pace of the match quickens following a commercial break but neither man is able to attain overall momentum. Following a hellacious double clothesline, the two men get up at a 5 count and Cena attempts a hard shoulder tackle. Shawn Michaels is able to avoid the collision, dropping to the mat and sending Cena crashing out of the ring on his own momentum. HBK maintains control of the match by targeting the arm of Cena. After a few fleeting attempts at breaking away from Michaels’ attacks, Cena is able to execute and FU for a nearfall and toss Shawn from the ring.
Cena begins to target the lower back of Michaels, a well established problem area for the Heartbreak Kid. The punishment turns the match in John Cena’s favour and he maintains focus on HBK’s back using a powerful Back Suplex and a tight Bearhug. Uncharacteristically, Cena takes to the top rope and delivers the top rope Leg Drop to the back of Michaels’ head for (I believe) the first time in his career.
In a move of pure desperation, Shawn Michaels is able to regain control of the match by knocking John Cena from the apron, sending him crashing ribs first into the announce table. Following another commercial, the brawl continues on the announce table before HBK is returned to the ring and locked in the STFU. The submission is locked in securely in the middle of the ring but Michaels is able to muster enough will to reach the ropes and force Cena to break. HBK drags himself to his feet and hits Sweet Chin Music, but a delay in making the cover allows Cena the opportunity to reach the ropes and break the count.
Exhaustion is evident as the match reaches its conclusion. Cena and Michaels drag themselves to their feet with the assistance of the corner of the ring. Cena whips HBK into the corner and Shawn rebounds onto Cena’s shoulders for the FU. Suprisingly, Shawn is able to escape Cena’s grasp, nail a second Sweet Chin Music and pick up the victory.
vs. Triple H – Night Of Champions 2008
This match saw John Cena challenge for the WWE Championship in the show’s main event, fighting to bring the title back to the RAW brand after Triple H was drafted to SmackDown. Triple H begins the match disrespecting the ability of his challenger, smiling as he chain wrestles him into a headlock and gesturing for him to ‘Suck it’ after throwing Cena out of a collar and elbow tie-up. Despite a brief retaliation, Triple H continues his assault, slowly and methodically targeting the lower back of John Cena.
A back and forth of control ensues between the two future Hall of Famers, each making gains with their signature moves and quick manouvers after rebounding from the ropes. The pace of the match is slow and meticulous with quick bursts of speed to execute extremely impactful moves. Strain begins to show on the bodies of both men and Triple H is sent over the top from and crashing to the mat outside the ring. Favouring his knee, Triple H must attempt to fight away the targeting of John Cena, who attacks the joint with chopblocks, strikes and the ringpost. A relentless Cena contorts The Game into the STFU but Triple H quickly breaks the hold by reaching the bottom rope.
As John Cena attempts the FU, Triple H escapes and nails his Pedigree. The Cerebral Assassin is unable to capitalise, however, due to the pain in his knee. A weary John Cena attempts the FU again, this time driving Triple H into the mat. A pinfall attempt results in a two count and the two Superstars fall back into a heap in the ring. After breaking a 10-count at 8, Cena and Hunter go back and forth with hard strikes to the face, only abating after Cena instead nails his patented Sitout Powerbomb. A series of chain moves culminates in Triple H being locked in the STFU. He again reaches the ropes but Cena resets the move in the middle of the ring only to be countered into a crossface from The Game. Cena fades for a moment but displays his strength in lifting Triple H onto his shoulders. This exertion of energy leaves Cena prone, though, and Triple H slithers into a Pedigree position, putting his challenger to bed with a 3-count.
vs. Kurt Angle – No Way Out 2005
We were blessed to see John Cena wrestle Kurt Angle in his prime on many occasions but this match is arguably the best of them. After a collar and elbow tie-up to commence the match, Kurt Angle forces Cena into the ropes before beginning a ground attack, locking him in a series of headlocks. Each time Cena rises to attack, Angle takes him back to the mat expertly. Frustrated by being outwrestled, John Cena pushes Kurt Angle out of the ring and tackles him over the announce table, following it up with less technical punches to the side of the head. Tossed back into the ring, Angle is suplexed before Cena picks up a near-fall.
The chain wrestling of Angle and brawling of Cena begins to merge as the match progresses, with each superstar demonstrating their ability for each. Kurt Angle picks the momentum back up by tossing Cena into the turnbuckles with a German Suplex. He goes back to his ground attack, combining submission holds with pure aggression, mounting and pounding Cena. After a series of near-falls, Cena begins to fight back delivering an excellent spinebuster and his trademark Spinout Powerbomb. An attempt to hit the FU is countered with a belly to belly suplex and, likewise, the Olympian’s Angle Slam attempt is met with a DDT. Cena’s second FU attempt is thwarted again and Angle rolls the Doctor of Thuganomics into an anklelock, which Cena is able to escape from. Cena’s third attempt at the FU is successful but Kurt Angle is able to kick out of the pin at the last moment.
After a stiff kick to the knee, Angle continues to work on the Angle of Cena, delivering a series of strikes with the assistance of the bottom rope and ringpost. After hitting the Angle Slam, Kurt locks in the Anklelock. He is forced to break the hold after Cena struggles his way to the bottom rope. While attempting to lock the hold back on, the referee is inadvertently knocked down and Angle immediately goes to retrieve Cena’s chain from the corner. Distracted by this, Cena is able to quickly hit another FU and make the cover. The referee rouses enough to make a slow three count and award Cena the victory.
Do you agree with the match choices above? Are there any matches that you think should or shouldn’t be there? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @thejezshow.